Bread – Silence

July 13, 2016

Psalm 28

“To You, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down into the pit.”  Ps. 28:1

When we are surrounded by the noise of the day, the honking of horns, the constant drone of televisions, the jabbering of voices … sometimes we say that all we want is silence.  But do we?

A long time ago I participated in a type of spiritual retreat called a “silent” retreat.  Unlike some “silent” retreats, it wasn’t totally silent because we could talk during mealtimes, but it was silent enough.  During the first day or so of that retreat, I thought I would go crazy.  Why?  Because I am used to filling my mind with external sound, living with a perpetual state of noise, which crowds out thinking and reflection.   So, when confronted with silence, I have no inputs whatsoever, except whatever my mind fills up with.

And if you’ve never tried it, go to a place of silence for a while.  Phase 1 is a high level of discomfort, Phase 2 is wondering what you are going to “do” next, and Phase 3 is your mind cluttering your thoughts with all kinds of thoughts, many of which are random and disorganized.

When your mind realizes that it is not getting external noise, it will try to generate noise of its own, which is Phase 3 above.

Most people fear Phase 3, the noise generated by the mind, and so retreat rapidly from silence back to the safe shores of external stimulation.

But there is a place beyond the noise of the mind where the mind becomes ready to listen and to observe.  At that stage, there is no noise coming from outside of you and there is no noise coming from inside of you – there is awareness, readiness, and at attitude of hearing, of listening, and not telling.

And at the stage, if we can get through the discomfort of silence, we are ready to hear.  Hear what?  Maybe it is the sound of a bird singing outside; maybe it is the soft rustle of the wind.  Maybe it is the gentle beat of the ceiling fan.  But, at some point, you are ready to hear the still, small voice of God reaching out to you through your prayers, your readings of His Word, or maybe even direct communication.   And when we hear it, because God is both holy and merciful, that sound strikes us with a combination of fear, wonder, excitement, and peace.

But what if, after a while, that still, small voice ceased for a while?  What if you asked God to speak and He did not, even though you are ready to hear (having readied yourself in silence)?

This is what the Psalmist is talking about.  That dead, spiritual silence when you have silenced the outside world, you have silenced the internal mind, and are ready to hear God – and He does not speak?

What happens then?  There is a tendency to misread this verse and to suggest that David is saying to the Lord that, if God does not speak to him, that he (David) will go down to hell (the pit).  However, what it really says is that “it will be like that.”  That makes sense.  Having been saved by grace, we do not lose our salvation because God is silent, but God’s silence toward us makes us feel like we are abandoned to our doom.

At this time, when God is silent, there are two responses we can make (there is a third response – believing that you are in hell, but we’ll skip that one).  One is to say to God, “well, you had your chance” and then return to the sound and fury of the world.  This is the attitude which says that “God has not spoken and He won’t any time soon.”  The other approach is to say to God, “I will wait in expectation.”  This is the attitude that says “God has not spoken yet but He will.”

The first response lets us return to the safety of noise.  The second response suspends us in the discomfort of silence.  The first response releases us back to the world.  The second response creates a radical dependence upon God – not because He has spoken but because He has promised that He will and because He has left us His Word to comfort and instruct us in the meantime.

Have you ever wondered how some people are always smiling, that nothing ever seems to faze them?  Maybe it is because they do not live in the land of noise, but rest in the heaven of silence.

Silence is a wonderful thing, but only if you are ready to meet God.  Are you?


© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.



Bread – Waiting

August 20, 2014

Readings for Wednesday, August 20, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 18:16-31; Acts 8:14-25; John 6:1-15; Psalms 119:145-176, 128,129,130


What does the word “waiting” suggest? To me, I imagine standing around, idleness, sitting down, tapping my foot in impatience, sleep, hanging out. The word “waiting” does not contain much power. It neither describes where we have been nor does it describe where we are going. It merely says that we are resting on landing of the stairs of life.

But there is also a different kind of waiting, beyond just hanging out. There is hanging out with expectation. Expectation of the next thing to occur. For example, we are sitting down in the movie theater, waiting for the show to begin. We may be idle, eating our popcorn and sipping on our drink, but we are anticipating the start of the show. We know it is going to happen but it has not happened. There is no place to go, nothing to say and nothing to do. So we wait … expectantly.

In today’s reading from Psalms, there is an interesting passage using the word “wait”:

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” Ps. 130:5-6

“I wait … more than watchmen for the morning.”

I have never served as a sentry in the military, standing as a watchman waiting for the morning, but I have hunted, going into the forest at night so that I would be in position at daybreak. There is nothing quite like waiting in the dark for the morning. Just before morning, the temperature drops. You hear noises as the forest wakes up, but morning is still not there. You look in the direction toward the horizon over which morning will come. There is active watching for the sunlight; there is active anticipation that what you have waited for will come. Sometimes you wait so hard that it seems like the morning will never come.

After having stood watch all night, waiting for the morning has to be one of the most active forms of waiting we as people will ever experience.

And yet God through David through the Psalms says “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits … more than watchmen for morning.” (emphasis added)

The kind of waiting we should do for the Lord exceeds the kind of waiting which we would do as watchmen waiting for the morning.

To my way of thinking, I ask myself “How?” I almost cannot imagine anything more intense than waiting for the morning after being in the dark for a long time. So what is meant by waiting for the Lord “more than” that?

Luckily, the Bible tells us – but not so much in English but in the original language, Hebrew. The word translated “wait” in English is the Hebrew word “qāvāh.” Its meaning is to “bind together (by twisting), to collect, to be gathered together, to be joined, to meet, to lie in wait for someone, to expect, to look for patiently, to hope, to be confident, to trust, to be enduring.”

Again, isn’t it amazing how God’s word expands the more you study it. While the watchman waits for morning, we wait in a way in which we are bound together with and into our God, where we join together in fellowship with Him who saved us, where we meet in solitude, in silence, where God can speak to us free of the noise of the day, where we can hope, where we can trust, where we can be trained up in perseverance and righteousness.

Are you waiting for the Lord? Is your soul waiting for the Lord? Not as one would wait for an egg to boil or as a watchman would wait for the morning, but as the Bible describes waiting – being bound up in His holiness, trusting, persevering, hoping, being nurtured by and in the vine.

Gives a whole new meaning to waiting, doesn’t it? Well that is the nature of God and His word – it gives us whole new meaning every day we let it, and Him, into our lives.


© 2014 GBF

Bread — Waiting

January 22, 2014

Readings for Monday, January 20, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 8:6-22; Heb. 4:14-5:6; John 2:23-3:15; Psalms 9,15,25


“At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven… in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, …” Gen. 8:6,13-15

Something happens and we put our life on hold. In Noah’s case, it was the flood. He sat in the ark he had made according to God’s command for a long time and when, he saw some mountaintops, he began to send out birds until, one day, it didn’t come back.

Imagine the celebration. The waters were receding and we can get out of this cramped, smelly, box of wood.

And Noah saw that the waters “were dried from off the earth” and removed the cover of the ark (It was sitting on the ground), probably so that he could see better and the sun could come pouring in. And he looked around and “the face of the ground was dry.”

What did he do next? He waited.

Is that what we would have done? Maybe we go through a time of “fasting,” keeping ourselves from some delectable like ice cream. At the end of the fast, what do we do? We go out, of course, and eat us some ice cream! After all, the fast is over! Let the celebration begin!

But what did Noah do? He saw that the time of wandering was over, that the “ground was dry,” and he waited. He did not whine. He did not step out to test the ground. He did not send out one of his animals to get them off the boat so he could have some more room. He just looked and waited.

Do you think he was tempted? I do. The top was off the ark, the waters were gone from the ground, the ground appeared dry, he is probably sick of being in close quarters with his family and every living thing from the earth, and the food in his storage was probably getting a little on the worn side. The promised land was but a few steps away. I can imagine him dreaming about lowering the side of the boat and stepping off. I can imagine him dreaming about being free again.

But he waited until what? Until God told him to leave. He was content to wait where he was until he was told by God what to do next.

What gave Noah the strength to do that? What gave him the ability to just wait on the Lord? We see no evidence of spiritual whining (urgent prayer asking the Lord for permission to leave), we see no evidence of Noah saying that “God helps those who help themselves,” we see no urgency on Noah’s part to get back to what he was doing before the flood. We see absolutely nothing from Noah except patience and obedience to God’s commands, once those commands are known.

So what gave Noah this strength? The Holy Spirit, to be sure. But I also think it was because of something else, something more personal to Noah. Think about what Noah has seen. Noah has seen judgment fall on everyone except him and his family. Noah has seen mercy and grace fall in him and his family. Noah has seen himself chosen by God in His sovereign will and not because of anything that Noah did. Noah has seen God’s provision bring him through tough times. Noah has received salvation from death. Noah has, by the grace and power of God, been given a new beginning.

It may be that Noah has learned to wait because Noah has come to the realization that he has received nothing, ever, except that which God has chosen to give him.

In our busy lives, we have no time to wait upon the Lord, to not move until we hear His voice, His instructions for the day. We get up in the morning with our agendas, rather than spend time with God in rest until He releases us into the world. We do not want to wait, we do not know how to wait, and we will not wait.

Perhaps we should take a lesson from Noah today. There is simple obedience and love in waiting. There is the power of knowledge that all things, including time, come from God and He will redeem for us what we need. There is the opportunity to see the miracle which God has in store for us if we would be wait upon Him for our marching orders. There is gratitude in turning our eyes toward our Savior instead of toward our objectives for the day.

What would have happened if Noah had not waited? We don’t know, but maybe, just maybe, the ground only appeared dry and was not dry. How often have we ourselves stepped out in our own power upon what appeared to us to be solid ground, only to sink to our ankles and knees into a muddy mess, a quagmire?

We don’t know what would have happened had Noah proceeded before God told him to, but we do know what happened when Noah waited until God said “go.” What happened was restoration of the earth and a future for man.

In obedience there is life. In waiting there is rest.

Let us then, today, wait until we hear God and see what happens. I’ll bet we will like the outcome.


© 2014 GBF

Bread – Waiting

June 17, 2013

Readings for Monday, June 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14; Luke 20:9-19; Psalms 77,79,80


Waiting is not something I do well. From my observation of others, waiting is not something others do well either. Any government agency comes to mind, whether it is the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Internal Revenue Service help desk, the Texas Workforce Commission, or the Social Security Office. We get our number or sign up on a sheet of paper, go out and sit in a poorly decorated room on hard chairs, tapping our feet or our cell phones, wondering “Why me!” and yet knowing at the same time that this experience is the lot of every man and woman.

Or pick standing in line at a movie theater or the sports arena to get tickets. Or standing in line waiting to be assaulted by the security people at the airport. In addition to tapping our feet and our cellphones, we will cross our arms and adopt a tired, angry face, totally irritated that we are having to wait.

We hate waiting.

Our readings today give us two good examples of waiting. In the first, from 1 Samuel, Hannah is barren. For years she has had to put up with the taunts of the other wife, who has many children. Her husband tries to console her, to no end. She waits for a child, waits for a child, waits longer, and then waits some more. The Bible describes the waiting perfectly – “So it went on year by year.” 1 Sam. 1:7 This has to be extremely frustrating. I want a child but I can’t have one; God tells me to wait. And I wait, until I grow old and then I wait some more. How depressing. But Hannah does what she can; she goes to church and entreats God over and over again for a child. The priest even thinks she is drunk, her wordless prayer is so obvious and so earnest. And, after a while, in God’s good time and according to His good purpose, He does give her a child, who turns out to be the prophet Samuel.

Hannah may be a good example of good things come to a person who waits, but I’ll bet you can’t tell the person that while he or she is waiting. The waiting place is not a fun place.

The second waiting which occurs in today’s readings is from Acts. Jesus has died, been resurrected, and appears before the apostles. He tells them to wait where they are and, after a while, they will receive gifts of the Holy Spirit. Of course, it is easier to wait when you know the timetable, so they ask Him when the kingdom will be restored to Israel. Jesus tells them “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Acts 1:7-8. Note that Jesus did not tell them when anything would happen, just that it would happen when the Father was ready for it to happen.

And so at the end of our reading today in Acts, we find the apostles all gathered in the upper room, hanging out and waiting for the next shoe to drop. But they don’t know if that will be five minutes later or a year later. So there they are, just waiting and waiting and waiting. What do you think they were thinking? Do you think they were happy? Do you think they were engaged in meditative silence? Or do you think they were tapping their feet, looking at the candles burning down, checking outside for signs of the Holy Spirit, or mumbling about how long it takes God or the government to do anything? I’ll bet they were irritated, ready to get on with the program, and not at all happy about waiting.

Why does God make us wait? You know, as soon as I ask the question we want to answer it. One answer which immediately pops into our head is to teach us something, like long-suffering, or hope, or perseverance, or radical dependence upon Him. And those are great answers for a Bible study or Sunday School or a sermon.

Or what if the answer is simpler – there is no answer? What if the reason we wait is simply because our time is not God’s time and He has not acted? To ask ourselves why God makes us wait is to assume that God owes us something – that He owes us a timetable, a look to the future, immediate action according to our wishes, or at least an explanation for the delay. Does He really owe us anything?

The answer to that question is a simple “No.” God does not owe us anything. He does not have to answer our prayers, He does not have to reveal to us His timetable or His purposes, He does not have to explain anything to us. He is God and we are not. He is King and we are not. And Jesus says this quite clearly – “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Acts 1:7. There it is, He has the authority and we do not, except to the extent He gives it to us.

But while we are waiting for the answer to prayer or the next miracle or whatever we have in mind on our agenda, there is someone else who is waiting too. That person who is waiting is God Himself.

Jesus spoke, as reported by Luke in our readings today, about the parable of the landowner and the tenants. The landowner sent his servants and the tenants beat them up. The landowner then sent his son and the tenants killed him. Jesus asks, then, what will the landlord do? He then answers His own question this way – “He [the landowner] will come and destroy those tenants…” Lk. 20:16

Well, we have beat up the prophets and killed Jesus Christ … so where is the destruction? God is waiting.

See, God waits too. He waits until His time is right. He is waiting until the day Jesus returns to earth in glory and judgment. And on that day, what will happen to those tenants?

They will be destroyed…unless they are forgiven. Who are the forgiven? Those who have been saved by Jesus Christ and forgiven their sins by Him, those who have turned away from disobedience toward acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior, those to whom God has shown mercy.

Are you counted in the forgiven? God is waiting. Why are you waiting?


© 2013 GBF

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